07 September 2014

New Method for Screening Colon

Colon Screening
An article from The Wall Street Journal Online reported that colon-cancer screening may soon become less invasive, more accurate—and more prevalent.

This assumption can be attributed to new methods and devices either already on the market or pending regulatory approval. The technologies include a video camera embedded in a pill capsule, a DNA test and an endoscope that provides almost panoramic views of the colon.

Experts say such devices could play an important role in reducing deaths attributed to colon cancer—nearly 51,000 in the U.S. last year, but each faces barriers, including U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restrictions, that may limit widespread adoption in the near term.

For years, colonoscopies have been considered one of the most effective cancer-prevention tools, credited with reducing colon-tumor deaths 25 present over the course of a decade. Physicians use long, rubber tubes with small video cameras to probe the colon. Images from the camera are displayed on high-definition monitors that doctors examine for abnormal growths called polyps, which over the course of 10 to 15 years can become cancerous.

Yet many people avoid colonoscopies. Some do so because they fear a colonoscopy will be painful or expensive, others because the preparatory procedures can be unpleasant. Also there is a risk that lesions or polyps will be missed. Polyps can be flat or hidden beneath folds of the colon. As many as 10 percent of large polyps are missed with traditional equipment, says Mark Pochapin, director of gastroenterology at NYU Langone Medical Center.

"Colonoscopy is a wonderful procedure and has been shown to save lives," Dr. Pochapin says, "but we want to do better."

A new scope made by EndoChoice Inc. goes for a more detailed view by adding cameras on the left and right side of the scope, offering a nearly 360-degree view of the colon. Using three cameras instead of one seems obvious, but it hadn't been tried before because the size of light bulbs was limited. EndoChoice's scope uses light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which are smaller and create space for the additional cameras.

Another device, PillCam Colon, a capsule the size of a large vitamin, travels through a patient's digestive system over the course of several hours, wirelessly transmitting video images to an external data recorder.